Party Dressing For Grown Ups

There is no reason to deny it, the holidays are well and truly upon us. And these festive nights, otherwise known as Party Season, present their own sartorial challenges. There is a very real possibility that you have at least one event a week from now until Wednesday, 1 January 2020, maybe more.

I understand that the temptation may be to hit the high street and box stores for affordable glitter and sequinned minidresses. Tis the season right!?

But I’m here to tell you there is another way!

You do not have to show up at every party you go in the first sparkly dress you saw looking like a 2009 Kirsten Stewart. I shouldn’t have to tell you that we are literally almost a decade beyond that. There are options that will give you all the holiday vibes you require without sacrificing your style. And with a bit of smart shopping and creativity you can invest in a holiday wardrobe that will stick around for years to come.

Ideally you want the holiday items in your closet to work with the rest of your wardrobe. You should be able to mix and match, and if you’re lucky get a bit of mileage out of your pieces the rest of the year. Don’t sacrifice your personal style and/or ethics just because you’re obligated to go to your partner’s office Christmas party.

I’ve broken down some classic holiday dressing staples into their categories, complete with suggestions, styling tips and most importantly a little bit of advice on how wear everything throughout the rest of year. So all you need to do is sit back, crank the Mariah and enjoy the eggnog!

The Holiday “Going Out Top”

There is no shame in falling back on the old “jeans and a nice top” standard, and the holidays are no different. You can go a bit a slinkier, or show a bit more skin than you might normally. Pick things you’ll be able to style in different ways through out the holidays; with jeans for a more casual outing and then with a slinky skirt for a more formal affair. It’s also good to look for things that can be easily layered, because it is winter and you’ll be wearing a lot of outerwear, but you might also find yourself somewhere crowded with the heating turned up way too high.

Outside the Holidays: Treat this like any other going out top. Because of the sexy and/or sparkly factor “holiday going out tops” also make for perfect “concert tops”

The Sparkly Jumper

This is the cornerstone of a good holiday wardrobe. They are subtle and easy to wear, but still festive. You will look like you care, even when you don’t. So for those of you with friends who think it’s a good idea to have people over on the 1st rather than this 31st, this will be a life saver. Most stores will have a few varieties this time of year. Whistles have built their entire holiday business around their Annie Sparkle Knit and release it every year. Pick one in a basic colour and relaxed fit, and you’ll be able to bust out it for every party you can’t really be bothered with for years to come.

Outside the Holidays: Anytime you want to seem fancy, but don’t have the energy.

The Light Jacket

Guys it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a little satin camisole is the perfect thing to wear to a fancy-ish holiday party. We’ve all been there, and we’ve probably all been cold. More than any other time of year, during the holidays you will need something to keep you warm that you can wear inside without looking like an idiot. Many brands have even started making sparkly cardigans, so you can kill two birds with one piece of glittery knitwear. Make sure it’s thin enough that you can wear it under your proper winter coat, and that you can pair it with many of the other items on this list.

Outside the Holidays: April 25th

The Holiday Trousers

A good pair of holiday trousers are a must have! Sure, dresses and skirts are great, but sometimes nothing makes you feel as glamorous as leaning up against a warmly lit fireplace in the perfect pair of slouchy but not sloppy trousers sipping a glass of champagne. Look for fabric that flows and drapes nicely, and don’t be afraid of dressing up a nicer pair of joggers. If you’ve had your eye on some lux knit trackies but can’t justify the cost for something that seems so loungey, wear them out! I would also say an elasticated waist is a must: go ahead have one more mince pie!

Outside the Holidays: Anytime you are hosting people at your house, Sunday roasts down the pub, brunch, when you wanna show up all the other moms on the school run.

The Slinky Black Skirt

So yes, this is a bit of no brainer and you probably even have one already. But a black skirt is a must. To make it really nighttime worthy get one with a bit of sheen. The satin shine will look great against a chunky knit. It shouldn’t be so sparkly that it steals thunder from something else, but it should be a bit more elegant than jersey. It is the type of thing that will work for almost any function and in the right style you will rely on it for years.

Outside the Holidays: It’s a black skirt. How much hand holding do you need?

The Sequin Skirt

For those of you ready for something a little more advanced than The Slinky Black Skirt, this is what you want. The Sequin Skirt can be worn exactly the same as the SBS, it just dials the festiveness up to 11. Again, play with the textures you have: knitwear, flannel, brushed wool or alpaca/mohair would all be amazing. And once you have the skirt you don’t need to put much effort into the rest of the look. Let it carry the load so you can focus on the important stuff, like how many Ferrero Rochers you can eat before people start judging you. (Be warned: during the holidays this number is extremely high, so tread carefully) I would also recommend going for silver rather than gold. It goes with more colours and will be easier to style post-holidays.

Outside the Holidays: You might think this is the one thing you cant wear the rest of the year, and you’d be dead wrong. Pair with a teeshirt, trainers and denim jacket for any daytime weekend activity. Don’t be precious with it, have fun.

The Non-Sparkly Holiday Dress

Look, I’m not saying that a sparkly/sequined dress is a bad thing, I’m just saying that there are other options which may serve you better. Velvet is the standard holiday dress option. Something in a dark colour (black, navy, dark red) will never go out of style. The leather dress trend is huge this year, and it is a great option for a holiday look. If you absolutely must have some glitz, a metallic rather than glittery option will give you more styling options. If you keep the dress simple, you can go crazy on the accessories!

Outside the Holidays: Most of the more minimal holiday dress styles become great formal options through the rest of year. Nighttime weddings or fancy date nights are perfect chances to rewear them. If you make the investment in a leather dress I would suggest dressing it down: with ankle boots or trainers it is a great pulled together daily look.

The Lux Suit

Suits are such an easy way to look polished and pulled together. They do not need to feel stuffy or business-y. Like the dresses the fabrics you pick will be what elevates the suit from boardroom to cocktail party. Velvet, satin, silk, hell even really nice pyjamas are perfect for holiday parties. I tend to like a slouchier look for my suits, but a tailored one is just as good. With some shiny shoes, some statement earrings and a bold lip you’ll be ready for any Christmas party they throw at you. You can also pull your suit apart as separates to get you even more mileage out of it.

Outside the Holidays: As separates, you can wear them anytime you would wear any other dress/work pant or blazer. As a suit, think of it as you would a formal dress. Any time a man would wear a dress suit, so can you.

The Christmas Shoe

Wanna know a secret?
All you really need is the right pair of shoes. An all black outfit and a statement shoe is enough. Get some glitz on your feet and the rest will fall into place.
However the great tragedy of the season is the Christmas Shoe Paradox. The only time of year you really really want to wear velvet or satin shoes is the exact time of year when weather dictates you should not wear velvet or satin shoes.
It’s sad, but sticking with metallics and glitter help to soften the blow.
The shoe can be the focal point of the outfit, or seen just peeking out the bottom of your Holiday Trousers. Don’t worry about going overboard, you can’t. The Christmas Shoe is never too much, only ever just right.

Outside the Holidays: You can wear the Christmas Shoe just like you would the Sequin Skirt (but maybe not with the sequin skirt). Skinny jeans, a crisp white shirt, a great pair of shades and some crazy shoes will always work.

If you’re looking to get some wear out of your holiday party clothes the rest of the year, stick with dark and neutral colours. Bright red and greens, or gold can read too obviously Xmassy to get much further wear. Try to keep everything in line with your regular style as well. Stick with shapes and silhouettes you know you like, and whenever possible colours as well. Don’t buy things for one night and toss them to the back of your closet. Look for things that you’ll be able to style a few ways during the season, and try to think about carrying them over to the next year as well.

You can look at the Christmas tree without looking like the Christmas tree.

A Brief Note On Christmas Jumpers / Ugly Sweaters


If you are obligated to go to an event where this is the dress code, and frankly work or a relative would be the only things I can think of where you really have no say in the matter, wear your Sparkly Jumper. A classic red will work too, or even a traditional Fair Isle fits the bill without having to lower your standards.

If it is your friends who have issued the invitation then all you can do is take a long hard look at your life and the choices you made that got you such terrible friends.

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